Adolescence, the transitional stage of development between childhood and adulthood, represents the period of time during which a person experiences a variety of biological changes and encounters a number of emotional issues. The ages which are considered to be part of adolescence vary by culture. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adolescence covers the period of life between 10 and 20 years of age.

• Adolescence is often divided by psychologists into three distinct phases: early, mid, and late adolescence. Adolescence can be a specifically turbulent as well as a dynamic period of one’s life.
• It has been identified as a period in which young people develop abstract thinking abilities, become more aware of their sexuality, develop a clearer sense of psychological identity, and increase their independence from parents.
• G. Stanley Hall denoted this period as one of “Storm and Stress” and, according to him, conflict at this developmental stage is normal and not unusual.
• Margaret Mead, on the other hand, attributed the behavior of adolescents to their culture and upbringing.
• Several developmental stage models have placed adolescence in a period of human development.
• Sigmund Freud saw it as the “genital phase” of psychosexual development, where the child recaptures the sexual awareness of infancy.
• Jean Piaget focused on cognitive development, seeing adolescence as the “formal operative stage” where the young person develops the ability to think abstractly and draw conclusions from the information available.
• Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development identified the identity crisis as central to the notion of adolescence.
• Adolescent psychology addresses the issues associated with adolescence, such as whether or not the aforementioned “storm and stress” is a normal part of this period.
• Adolescents are widely considered by the psychological establishment to be prone to recklessness and risk-taking behaviors, which can lead to substance abuse, car accidents, unsafe sex, and youth crime.
• There is some evidence that this risk-taking is biologically driven, caused by the social and emotional part of the brain developing faster than the cognitive-control part of the brain(frontal cortex)
• Although most adolescents are psychologically healthy, they can (like adults) exhibit signs of mental illness.
• Late adolescence and early adulthood are peak years for the onset of schizophrenia.
• Mood disorders such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders can initially show in adolescence. For example, girls aged between 15 and 19 make up 40% of anorexia nervosa cases.

Adolescence: Indian Context

• In contemporary India while adolescence is a comparatively new term, the word
• youth is better known and has been used at the levels of policy formulation and
• programming (Singh 1997).
• However, even the ancient text of Dharamashastra recognized the crucial nature
• of adolescence and prescribed specific codes of conduct for the phase.

• These codes are deeply rooted in the Indian psyche and continue to influence cultural practices
• towards adolescents in a powerful manner.

• The family universally is acknowledged as an institution of socialisation, however, it plays a major role in the life of an Indian.

• Despite the fast pace of social change, it continues to have a direct bearing on adolescents’ development, since most young people stay in family until adulthood or even later in the case of joint family set-up.

• Most Indian families observe sacred ritualistic ceremonies at various stages of life cycle. The onset of puberty is acknowledged by the family and new code of conduct is prescribed both for boys and girls.
• The interplay of biological changes and social attitude determines the psychological meaning of puberty.

• The onset of puberty marks the beginning of adolescence. There are individual as well as cultural differences in the length of adolescence and in the age of onset and completion.

• The physical changes of pubescence signal the beginning of this phase. The stage of adolescence is likely to end earlier in primitive cultures and later in technological ones.

• Several studies have indicated that Indian parents rarely provide the desired support to growing adolescents regarding biological and physiological changes as also the meaning attached to these.

• Youth sexuality stands out as an important aspect which is inadequately understood; taboos to access information and lack of counseling services make youngsters turn to peers and other sources of information.

• We need to be aware that distorted information has consequences related to exploitation, abuse, mental health problems and risk of HIV/AIDS.

• Providing awareness services and strengthening capabilities of institutions like family, community and school to act as sources of correct information are thus important and need to be given attention.

• Adolescents –include both boys and girls but in Indian context these two have very different experiences during growing years including adolescence, the cultural differences are vast with regard to their conduct and are based on traditional adult roles stereotypes.

• Growing as a female in India carries with it the connotation of inferior status, and lesser privileges-as compared to a male child.

• It cuts across all social classes of the society and through entire lifespan. For a girl, the onset of puberty implies more restrictions on her movement, fewer interactions with boys and men, and more active participation in household chores.

• Boys begin to exercise greater freedom to move about, expected to seek educational and vocational pursuits as a priority and to take adult roles.

• Besides age old gender distinctions, there are many variations in the current images of adolescent’s in India.

• The variations arise from factors such as urban, rural and tribal residence, ethnicity and socio economic levels of the family.

• Lifestyle of urban adolescents from upper class is quite different from that of middleclass and lower-class adolescents.

• Former have access to private, good quality education and are influenced by western ways of life style through travel and exposure; their preferences for music, clothes and interaction with opposite sex are very close to the western counter parts.

• On the surface there does not appear to be any gender discrimination in the families of these adolescents but covertly they do exist.
• Pursuing educational endeavours is encouraged both in upper and middle urban class.
• Urban Adolescents from lower class have to struggle for survival and grow in impoverished, disadvantaged environment making them vulnerable to several risks.

• The picture of rural adolescents is different; the disparity between boys and girls is even greater among them. Less emphasis on formal education makes boys and girls participate in adult activities at home and outside at an early age.

• The rapidly changing social, political and economical scenario in the world has not left Indian family untouched.

• It is going through structural and functional modifications that have a bearing on adolescent’s socialization and parent child relations.

• Weakening of social support from kinship, movement of women empowerment, exposure to media, increasing competitive demands of the market economy and higher standards of achievement are a few aspects that have changed the family dynamics in the recent past.

• The need for differential values, competencies and coping styles between parents and adolescents are a source of anxiety and stress both for adolescents and parents.

• The ambiguity of values that adolescents observe in the adult world, the absence of powerful role models, increasing gaps between aspirations and possible achievements, not surprisingly, lead to alienation and identity diffusion.

• Parents themselves appear ill prepared to cope with social change, having grown up in hierarchically structured and interlinked social and caste groups that provided stability.

• The conflict between parents’ desire to help their adolescent children cope with the changing demands of their own rootedness in tradition expresses itself in the cold feet syndrome when things go wrong.

• Parents who apparently seem modern, but if their child breaches established social codes, intergenerational conflicts related to marriage, career choice, or separate living arrangements result in the tendency to fall back on tradition.

• Amidst all this turmoil, while the outward form of family is changing, Indian family has the advantage of its heritage with well defined value system related to social relations and prescriptions of the ideal way of life.

• Adolescents across all sections of the society thus have a family as an ‘anchor’ that supports them to cope with challenges of transition to adulthood.

• Family as an institution in India therefore, has a potent role in influencing adolescents.

• Capacity building of its members to provide timely support and monitoring signs of dangers to save adolescents from slipping into risks, can be an important strategy/approach.
• Involvement of parents has increasingly now been used in planned interventions of governmental and voluntary sectors.


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